Enterprisers pay tribute to Night-time Channel Crossers 31/5/06

Just fifty years ago, two 13ft 9in sailing dinghies, Enterprise 1 and Enterprise 2 left the beach at Dover to make a remarkable journey across the Channel to France. Bruce Banks and his wife Rosemary sailed E1 and Bobbie Pegna and Mrs Flavia Nunes sailed E2. They set off at 3am at the dead of night on the 8 January 1956. Although experienced sailors, each had sailed for less than one hour in their boats before. Even more remarkable was that Bruce only clapped eyes on his boat for the first time on the beach that night.

On 10 June this year two modern day Enterprises, E22901 and E22322 are planning to recreate that epic crossing from Dover to Calais made 50 years earlier. The big difference is this time the sailors will be in modern boats and will all be very well prepared for the occasion, with proper clothing and safety gear on board. The teams have also decided to set sail in daylight at a warmer time of year.

This time round 12 seasoned Enterprise sailors will sail in rotation on the journey from Dover to Calais, thereby getting some feel for what those intrepid crews must have experienced.

Fifty years ago, the story attracted lots of interest with the full story being splashed across the front page of the News Chronicle. No surprise as the Chronicle had sponsored the design and launch of the exciting new Enterprise, the people’s boat, and it turned out to be one of the most successful publicity stunts ever!

The paper’s marketing flair led to Enterprises appearing at a number of important and influential venues and within five years 4,500 boats were on the water. To date a staggering 23,200 boats have been built and are sailed in 17 countries worldwide.